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Church renewal rekindled at its historic home

TOCCOA, Ga. (BP)–The National Conference on Lay Renewal returned to the place of its historic roots at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Toccoa Jan. 24-25 after a 7-year hiatus. Hosted by the North American Mission Board, the primary topic of discussion was a new vision for church renewal.

With 85 conferees from 14 states, representation came from lay leaders, state coordinators and NAMB staff. Among the leadership were Don Gibson of Texas, Bob Foy of North Carolina and Nate Adams, NAMB’s vice president of mobilization and media. The theme of the 2002 Church Renewal Conference was “Rekindling the Passion.”

The conference, last held at Toccoa in 1996, served as the debut event for the new Church Renewal Weekend Manual, a joint project under the direction of Gibson, Adams, and Kenny Rains, manager of NAMB’s mission education opportunities and events unit. The new manual incorporates some of the best of the former renewal material along with new resources and direction for the church renewal movement. It is published by NAMB.

“The church renewal journey has radically altered my whole life. For 25 years God’s direction and presence has given me a ministry that has overwhelmed me but has brought glory to God because of His faithfulness in our lives,” said Gibson, associate director for Texas Baptist Men.

“The new direction (being taken) through NAMB and Kenny Rains is a wonderful new beginning for a spiritual process that has literally changed thousands of people’s lives. I am very excited about being a part of this new beginning of church renewal,” said Gibson, who will join Henry Blackaby Ministries on Feb. 15 as a consultant for Church Renewal Weekends.

Bob Foy, Executive Director of Baptist Lay Fellowship of North Carolina, has also been instrumental in the new direction. When asked about the move to-date, Foy said, “It’s an answer to prayer. The direction that we are going is what our coordinators have been seeking for several years. Getting the blessings and national leadership of the North American Mission Board is the most important thing that could have happened. Understanding about spiritual giftedness — that we are all called, gifted and sent — is what making disciples is about. The Lord told us to make disciples, not church members. The renewal journey is the best thing I know of to help a church accomplish that.”

Some of the goals of the conference were:

— To dialog about the “new direction” of church renewal with church renewal leaders.

— To forge strategic partnerships and rekindle the fires that are important to the church renewal process.

— To outline the new “connection” of church renewal to the North American Mission Board as a strategy for awakening and mobilizing on-mission churches. (Church Renewal will receive support from Adams’ mobilization and media group, specifically the mission education opportunities and events unit managed by Rains.)

— To identify effective resources currently being used and prepare to make needed adjustments.

“Lay Renewal weekends and the Church Renewal process have a wonderful history of ‘awakening’ Christians and churches, leading them to form authentic small groups and equip members for ministry,” said Adams. “We want to encourage churches to take the journey even further and rediscover their purpose as a mission-hearted redemption center. At its heart, renewal is a church-wide awakening of the people of God to move on in the mission of God.”

He added that the general direction of walking together was affirmed through the conference with a commitment to meet at Toccoa next year to continue the journey. Throughout 2002, task groups will work to reevaluate resources, reestablish networks, and recruit new and expanded leadership for the future.

Representatives attended from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

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  • Joe Conway